European structural funds investigation
UPDATE: see below for later reaction from the European Commission.
The Brussels press corps got a change from Ireland bail-outs on Tuesday, when the European Commission decided to make structural funds the topic of the day.
Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen, Commission spokeswoman, spent the first 15 minutes of the daily midday briefing vocally defending cohesion funds, in direct response to day 1 of the FT’s expose.
“It is simply not true that cohesion funding lies idle under red tape,” she said, reprising our front-page headline. Her argument, which I expect will find its way onto the FT’s letters page, is that the money isn’t sitting on EU bank accounts – but rather has yet to be called up from member states.
In addition to Europe’s contribution to the 85bn-euro Irish rescue package, 14 members of the eurozone are being stuck with an additional bailout-related bill from Dublin. It comes to 963m euros, and it represents Ireland’s remaining share of the 110bn euro Greek bailout agreed in May.
After securing its own bailout on Sunday, Ireland informed its fellow eurozone partners that it would no longer be able to shoulder its 1.3bn euro commitment to Greece. Before running into its own debt problems, Dublin chipped in 346m euros for that cause earlier this year. The result, according to the rules of that agreement, is that the rest of its obligation will now be divided up among the other participating eurozone members.